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10 Food Choking Hazards For Babies and Small Children

These 10 food choking hazards for babies and small children will help you be aware of the foods that are not ideal to feed young children. We also included food choking prevention tips and child safe feeding techniques to help avoid choking incidents.

Watching a small child choke is a terrifying experience. While all parents and caregivers should be trained in how to dislodge an item from a baby or small child’s windpipe, even a correctly-administered Heimlich maneuver does not always work. The best way to avoid a choking accident is to monitor a child’s food and behaviour at the table.

10 Food Choking Hazards For Babies and Small ChildrenPin

What is a choking hazard

A choking hazard is any object or piece of food that could be caught in a baby or toddler’s throat blocking their airway and making it impossible or difficult to breathe.

Foods to Avoid for Babies and Small Children

Children of four years and under are at risk from food choking hazards. It is common sense to remain with your child whenever they are eating. An unsupervised child can choke on foods that you may never have considered to be a risk. These are some of the most common choking hazards associated with babies, toddlers, and young children and food.

There are also a number of high risk choking foods that should be avoided when babies and small children are learning to eat, including hard foods, hard-to-chew foods, and globs of food.

The following is a list of top choking foods for babies and small children. Many of these foods, including candy, chips and hot dogs, have poor nutritional value anyway, and should be avoided.

1. Nuts

Most of us know that young children should not be given nuts, even peanuts. Nuts can cause allergies in children, but they also pose a choking hazard. The current recommended practice by the Canadian Paediatric Society is to safely introduce allergenic foods like peanuts or peanut butter between four and six month of age. Nuts can also easily become lodged in a child’s throat and block their airway.

2. Peanut butter

This is separate from nuts for one reason. Although peanut butter runs the risk of allergic reaction, it is also thick and cloying in texture. Peanut butter can get stuck in a child’s throat which causes clogging and blocked airways. Even small spoonfuls of peanut butter can be difficult for a child to swallow.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • Spread peanut butter thinly across bread, and avoid letting toddlers eat it off the spoon.
  • Sticking to chunky peanut butter (as opposed to smooth) and whole wheat bread (as opposed to white) also helps avoid creating a molten mass of goo in a toddler’s mouth.

3. Small, round, or slippery foods

Because these foods don’t require much, if any, chewing, they are frequently swallowed whole. This can lead to the food lodging in the narrow parts of a child’s throat and blocking the airway. Foods that fall into this category include:

  • Whole olives
  • Grapes
  • Raisins and similar dried, small fruits
  • Small, soft fruits like cherries and blueberries
  • Seeds – Always ensure fruits are de-seeded and avoid giving your child seeds such as sunflower seeds.
  • Popcorn – Can be difficult to swallow and may also contain unpopped kernels that can cause a choking hazard
  • Hard candy – Small, hard sweets are not suitable for young children. Avoid them.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • Cut whole olives or grapes into quarters for beginners and halves for more experienced toddlers. For very inexperienced eaters, peel the grape as well.
  • For Cherries, remove the pit and cut the cherry in halves or quarters.
  • Popcorn and chips have sharp edges and hard kernels can quickly lodge in a child’s throat.
  • Make sure to cut raisins in half until children are old enough to handle them whole.
  • Watch out for lollipops as well. Once the candy has been gnawed off the stick, a lollipop is as dangerous as any other hard candy.

4. Foods that are pliable

Pliable foods can mold themselves to the shape of a child’s throat and lodge there. Pliable foods might include:

  • Banana
  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • Discs of cut up hot dogs are the perfect size to lodge in a child’s esophagus. Cut each disc in quarters or halves. Long, thin strips work well, too.
  • Never let a small child bite off of a whole hot dog.

5. Dry foods

Think about eating a dry, papery cracker or potato chips. Now imagine being a small child trying to cope with dry, papery foods that are hard to swallow. Foods that fall into this category include:

  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Tortilla chips
  • Fruits and vegetables with tough, dry skins – For example, apples and carrots.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • For raw apples, carrots and other hard fruits and vegetables, cut apples into pieces too small to block a child’s windpipe, or cook and puree them. Grate raw carrots or cook them first and cut into small, soft chunks. It’s best to cut all fruits and vegetables into strips rather than rounded pieces.
  • For hard cereal, don’t start out with the whole Cheerio – cut it in half for beginners. As the baby begins to master eating, parents can give a whole “o”.
Woman preparing a meal for a babyPin

6. Stringy foods

Another potential food choking hazard are celery and beans with strings, spaghetti, noodles, and any food that is long and thin.

7. Chewy and sticky foods

Avoid caramels, gummy type sweets and be careful when giving processed cheese, especially the sliced variety. Don’t offer cheese in the form of cubes as this can lodge in the throat, similar to the advice about rounded foods.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • Don’t order double cheese on a toddler’s pizza. A wad of mozzarella cheese is difficult for a small child to chew and swallow.
  • Remove any stringy cheese from pasta dishes as well.

8. Food that is hard to chew

Avoid meat chunks, especially steak and similar tough meats. If a child can’t chew it, they will probably try to swallow it whole. This is an extremely common example of a regular choking hazard.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • Stringy meats like steak are even a choking hazard for adults.
  • Puree meats or cut them into tiny, tiny bits.
  • Avoid fatty bits of meat.

9. Fish bones

A common sense item perhaps, but always check the fish you give to your children. Even in filleted fish, bones get missed.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

Check the fish yourself to ensure there is no potential food choking hazard.

10. Bread

Bread can be surprisingly difficult for children to swallow. Most children enjoy bread, especially in easy-to-handle and eat sandwich form. Consider what bread you are offering. Some breads can be very rubbery and almost similar to the clogging effect of cheese, if swallowed in larger amounts and quickly.

Food Choking Prevention Tips:

  • A piece of bread appears safe, but a large glob of sticky, chewed up white bread is just as dangerous as a hard candy.
  • Choose whole wheat and whole grain breads to minimize the stickiness and monitor children well.
  • Encourage your child to chew bread well and offer plenty of fluids to help wash it down with.

Safe Feeding Techniques For Babies and Toddlers

Besides the actual foods offered to babies, there are some best practices to help avoid choking accidents. Monitor small children at all times while they are eating. It is dangerous to let a one-year-old eat his breakfast alone while mom is in the bathroom brushing her teeth, even if she’s only gone for a few minutes.

Seated Properly

Make sure toddlers are seated in an appropriate place while eating. A child running around with her snack can easily fall, causing her to inhale unexpectedly and aspirate her food causing a food choking hazard. A child who is eating while lying down is also in danger of inhaling food.

Safe Car Snacks

Choose safe car snacks for toddlers. It’s too difficult to properly monitor a snacking toddler while driving. Melt-in-the-mouth rice crackers may be appropriate for a toddler, but cookies that break into large chunks are not. Also, take special care for older babies in back-facing car seats. It may be a better idea to stop and feed a ten-month-old if he really needs to eat, or give him a drink instead.

10 Food Choking Hazards For Babies and Small ChildrenPin

Follow baby’s lead

As with other skills, babies and toddlers master eating at different times. Some one-year-olds may do great with raisins, but some aren’t quite ready. Be aware of the child’s level of feeding mastery, and take extra care when providing care to someone else’s child.

Eating, like potty-training, talking and other milestones, is a learned skill. Help keep it fun and safe, and babies and toddlers will learn to enjoy learning to eat properly in their own time.

These food safety tips for infants and toddlers is excellent advice for all children. Encouraging slow, careful eating and chewing is a good way to prevent a lot of food choking hazards. If your child should present with choking, know what to do.

Lyne Proulx
Lyne Proulxhttps://ottawamommyclub.ca/
Lyne Proulx is a Certified WEBB Bodywork Pet Practitioner, Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI), Certified Professional Wedding Consultant, and an Event Planner. She loves all things Disney and is an avid teaholic and chocoholic. She coordinated the Annual Infant Information Day/Early Years Expo for the City of Ottawa for 8 years. She was the Queen B of the BConnected Conference, Canada's Digital Influencer and social media Conference in Ottawa and Toronto. She was also the co-chair of the Navan for Kraft Hockeyville 2009-2011 committee that organized five community events within 6 months, and helped Navan reach the top 10 finalists in Canada. In April 2011, she received the City of Ottawa Mayor's City Builder Award.

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